SUPPORTING GREAT TELEVISION

Blue Bloods: Danny Reagan, This is Your Wife

In Recaps on December 4, 2010 at 10:30 am

Linda Reagan (Amy Carlson) in “After Hours,” last night’s “Blue Bloods” episode. (Screen cap)

Since Blue Bloods debuted three months ago, I’ve been struck by how much it resembles the first season of Dallas.

Beyond the obvious – both shows are multi-generational dramas that focus on brothers who’ve followed dad into the family business (on Dallas, that business was oil; on Blue Bloods, it’s policing) – the newer series seems to be struggling to find its voice, just as the older show did when it began three decades ago.

We remember Dallas today as the granddaddy of prime-time soap operas, but that’s not how it started out.

In the beginning, each episode introduced a new storyline, which was tidily wrapped up by the time the closing credits rolled.

As Dallas soon discovered, textured characters like Sue Ellen Ewing (my personal favorite) demand deeper stories, and those often require more than an hour to tell.

Once Dallas embraced its inner soap opera, it found its way and became one of the era’s biggest hits.

Blue Bloods would be wise to follow a similar path.

Right now, the show feels like it was created through some kind of Hulu mash-up: In addition to being an old-fashioned family serial, it also offers a lot of Law & Order–type police procedural and a touch of Rubicon-style conspiracy drama.

By trying to achieve so many different things at once, it ends up doing nothing particularly well.

Take After Hours, the episode that CBS aired last night.

It focused on an investigation that strained the marriage of Detective Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg); the subplot was about how Danny’s dad, police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck), wrestled with a tough personnel decision involving a loyal-but-unqualified ex-partner.

The show also inched forward with this season’s only serialized storyline: youngest son Jamie’s off-the-clock investigation into the Blue Templar, a mysterious secret society within the police force that may be connected to the death of the middle Reagan brother, Joe.

Danny’s storyline was the most complex and least satisfying: He and partner Jackie (Jennifer Esposito, the show’s best actress) investigated when King (Manley Pope), the doorman at a popular nightclub, was shot and killed.

Sexy club owner Sabrina (Gloria Votsis) – described by Jackie as “a Page Six staple” – flirted shamelessly with Danny, and he seemed to enjoy it, even grinding with her on the dance floor.

Back home, Danny’s patient wife Linda (Amy Carlson) felt neglected and seemed to worry her husband might stray.

As Danny and Jackie’s investigation progressed, Sabrina became a suspect in King’s shooting, but it turned out the temptress was the intended target all along: The doorman was accidentally shot by his pregnant girlfriend Benita (Caitlin Fitzgerald), who was aiming for Sabrina after discovering Sabrina was sleeping with King.

Danny never submitted to temptation with Sabrina, and in the final scene, he patched things up with Linda, who told him she worries he misses the single life.

He assured her he doesn’t regret settling down; they kissed, all was forgiven and the credits rolled.

This was a lot to squeeze into a single 43-minute episode, especially when Frank and Jamie’s storylines were also thrown into the mix.

I came away from After Hours wishing the show would give Carlson more to do.

She probably logged more screen time in this episode than any other this season, and yet Linda still feels less like a character than a character type – the stoic cop’s wife who harbors private fears she’ll become just another police widow.

(Carlson alone rivals Selleck in the quiet nobility department.)

Some weeks, Linda is little more than a prop during those Reagan family dinner scenes – not unlike the way Dallas treated Sue Ellen during that show’s first season.

Like the under-appreciated Linda Gray did with Sue Ellen, I suspect Carlson could do much more with her Blue Bloods role, if only given an opportunity.

I also want to see a lot more of Jackie, Esposito’s character.

This was the actress’s fifth Blue Bloods appearance and now I can’t imagine the show without her.

She and Wahlberg have a natural, effortless chemistry – more so than he has with Carlson, unfortunately – but refreshingly, it isn’t sexual tension.

Danny and Jackie appear to be nothing more than partners and friends – the After Hours scene in which they’re patrolling the city on the night shift and he sings to her (“Danny and Jackie are going out tonight!”) was cute – and Jackie served as Danny’s conscience throughout the episode, reminding him of what he would lose if he strayed with Sabrina (“If you’re wife saw you with that one….”).

Most remarkably, Esposito manages to make Jackie seem authentic, even when she’s surrounded by characters spouting some of that corny, only-on-a-CBS-crime-drama dialogue.

Example: When Danny and Jackie were questioning Sabrina after King’s murder and she began flirting with him – Danny declared he was “too married” to be hanging around nightclubs; Sabrina told him that was “too bad” – Jackie chimed in with a kind of verbal eye roll: “OK. Well.”

If Blue Bloods isn’t willing to rescue Carlson from her permanent guest starring status – she’s the only adult Reagan who isn’t in the show’s opening credits – then I hope they’ll at least make Esposito a full-fledged cast member.

Finally, a word about Jamie’s probe into the police department’s mysterious Blue Templar sect: Please, Blue Bloods, wrap this thing up already, will you?

At the risk of sounding contradictory, I believe this show would be much stronger if it became more serialized, but this plot has dragged on long enough.

Each week, Jamie (Will Estes) has some clandestine nighttime meeting with someone who may know something about the Blue Templar but will only speak about it in vague, coded terms.

These scenes have become tedious, and since Joe Reagan was already dead when Blue Bloods began, it’s hard to care much about him.

At this point, neither Jamie nor the audience knows much more about the Templar they did when the storyline began in Blue Bloods’ September debut.

Even at its stodgiest, Dallas wasn’t this slow.

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  1. […] notable exception being the December episode in which he contemplated (but ultimately rejected) the advances of a sexy temptress – but each week, we get lots of scenes between Danny and […]

  2. after reading this comment about the show,i will agree that the
    show is about family and that they can get through family problems
    and deal with them. the show is great. the actress esposito is hot
    and sexy. she looks good when she is with wahlberg. hey,can you tell me the names of the niteclubs that were featured on the show(nyc).

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